Of the hundreds of attorneys I’ve worked with over the past 11 years, I’ve found that 95 percent don’t have an effective, written plan for productive legal networking. Before you attend another legal networking event without a plan, please call me at (312) 981-0119. Let’s plan for your next legal networking event together.
This is probably not a surprise; after all, drafting a business plan is not something most law schools teach students. But a networking plan is critical to your success. The adage “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” is as true in terms of planning networking activities as it is in any other context. Devising a written plan focused on networking activities can save a tremendous amount of time, energy, and money.
To illustrate the importance of developing a networking plan, imagine we’re planning a trip together through Africa. We’ll start at the southernmost point of the continent and work our way north. If we were to decide to take off on this adventure without considering any future obstacles that may lie ahead, how long do you think it would be before we ran into trouble? If we failed to plan to meet predatory animals and militia groups and didn’t bring proper provisions, we wouldn’t have exactly created a blueprint for success. Now imagine we had the best very best GPS equipment available, an experienced guide, ample provisions, and plenty of protection to carry with us on this trip. Which approach would you prefer?
Most people fail at networking and developing their book of business because they fail to plan and set their goals, one of the most critical elements of success in any area of life. The focus of this chapter is writing a plan so that you will always have the most product legal networking possible. By the time you’ve finished reading it, you’ll be prepared to develop a time-conscious and roadblock-sensitive networking plan.
For starters, your productive legal networking plan should include the big-picture goals you want to accomplish over the next 12 months. It’s imperative to break down this plan and your actions on a daily, monthly, and quarterly basis to ensure follow-through and, ultimately, success.
There are three primary steps to creating a networking plan. The first step is to identify your main objective. It should be phrased in terms of certainty that a specific goal will become a reality. It helps to state your goal in one concise sentence. For example, “I will have forged five new strategic partnerships by this June” or “I will have taken on five new matters by December 31st.”
By writing your objective as a conclusory statement, you’ll be reinforcing beliefs on a subconscious, as well as a conscious, level. If you know your business development numbers from the previous year, writing your objective should be easy. Set a high goal based on those numbers, but make sure it’s still achievable considering your role within the firm and billable hours quota. Don’t forget to factor in family time, which provides a balance that makes you a more interesting conversation partner at networking events.
In my next blog, I’ll cover steps 2 and 3 of developing your productive legal networking plan, plus share a sample action plan.